We know that Christian parents must raise their children in a gospel centered way. And we also know that any gospel-center thing must carry the gospel message within and that is this: We are sinful by nature and need to repent and believe in Christ the Savior. Only Jesus can break the bondage of sin and deliver us from its curse so that we may have abundant life.
But when it comes to raising our children in a gospel-centered way the temptation parents will many times face is do it with guilt-strings attached.
Let me explain. We do want to proclaim the gospel to our children, we want them to know what sin is, why repentance is important and what forgiveness looks like. But the temptation that many Christian parents face -especially when they want to see quick results- is to parent installing guilt in their children.
“If you really love Jesus, you would have not been disrespectful to your dad.”
“If you really, really, repented from that lie yesterday, you would not have lied to me again.”
“If when you said, “forgive me, mom” you really meant it, you would not have disobeyed me again.”
Sin is brought up in each of the examples above, yes, but the cure given will prove to be poisonous.
Many times I am surprised at how much Christian parents are afraid of God’s Grace. We are afraid that our children could abuse it (as if that was even possible!), so we try to build dams to “protect” our children from tasting it. What if they taste God’s amazing grace and then underestimate sin? What if they taste true forgiveness…maybe they will not see their future sins as grievous anymore? What if our home tastes likes grace… maybe they will not taste the horrors of sin anymore?
What is happening here? The truth is that when we act like this we act in unbelief. We do not believe that when read the Word of God to our children, that when we speak about it as we go on our daily lives, the Holy Spirit can convict them of their own sin. In our unbelief we try to help God by bringing up the sins of our children over and over again -so that they will “have the opportunity” to search themselves to see if there has been true repentance. When we do this we imitate the Devil in what the does best, and so we become the accusers of our own children from the rising of the sun to the end of the day.
Our accusations become the seed, the soil, and the water that bring forth the rotten fruit of insecurity in our children. How will our children grow to be assured of the Father’s love and forgiveness if we are the ones who are always doubting their motives, their tears, their repentance, their words? How will our children taste the assurance of God’s forgiveness if we always tell them that “maybe their repentance was not from their heart”? How will they drink from God’s fountain of grace if we keep them away from it -fearing that they will not see their sin if they come?
May God help us to bring with much joy and much confidence our children to Christ! That we will be instruments in His hand to assure them of the Father’s love! That when we teach them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, they will never doubt that their Father in Heaven hears them when they cry out to Him! God forbid that we, their own parents, become a stumbling block to them!
But you might rightly ask, but what do we do then when our children keep sinning? What we should do is exactly what the Father has taught us to do: We repent, we believe, and from the fullness of Jesus we drink grace upon grace. We need to open the Scriptures before our children and show them what the Word says about that particular sin they are struggling with, and we tell them that in Christ there is always (always!) forgiveness for those who repent and believe. And then we assure them, from the same Holy Scriptures, of the Father’s love.
And lastly we do something that we almost always forget to do: we equip our children with the Word of God to help them fight sin in their lives. We teach them how Jesus’ way is more precious and joyful and satisfying than any sin. Because like us, they will continue to battle, and like us, they need all the counsel of God to fight and win.
Many parents are prone to point their children’s sins to them -every day and on their face, literally pointing a finger to them, to “remind” them of their shortcomings, to “encourage” them to repent quickly, and then they leave them in tears, but disarmed to fight, to win, to be assured of God’s love for them.
We must stop parenting our children with guilt-strings attached and start parenting them with grace-strings attached. How we need to teach our children the promises that we have in Christ to overcome sin. We must teach them, with our Bibles open, what are the weapons God has given us to battle our flesh, the world, and the Devil. How much our children need to hear of the power of the Word, the power of a prayer life, and the blessedness of the means of grace! How we must teach them to take the sword, which is the Word, and fight to win instead of always sending them to their rooms to do a morbid introspection of their hearts. And, oh, how much, like Paul, we need to pray with them and for them until Christ is formed in them!
Friends, unless we bring our children to Christ so that He can touch them with His grace, unless they see how precious all of Christ is to us, they will not want to come and taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Unless we stop being afraid of giving them grace in the same measure that we have received it, our generations will keep swimming in lukewarm water, never assured of the Father’s love for them.
May our children hear us say with much assurance and joy when they ask for forgiveness, “I too received mercy when I acted in my unbelief. And just like the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ, it now flows for you. Look not to your own heart, my child, but look up to Jesus! He is the author and perfecter of our faith. Come,come with me, let us run and bathe in the ocean of God’s amazing grace!”
Under His sun and by His grace,